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Operation Cinderella Story was a DSS-initiated and -led criminal investigation that dismantled a transnational human trafficking criminal network operating in the Republic of Korea and the New York City area.

The criminal enterprise laundered millions of dollars in illicit proceeds from secret New York City brothels catering to more than 70,000 pre-vetted customers.

Over the course of a 20-month investigation in the United States and South Korea, two DSS special agents and a forensic accountant linked a dozen conspirators to more than 150 financial accounts that controlled business operations for numerous seemingly independent brothels operating in the New York metropolitan area.

In April of 2016, the DSS New York Field Office and other federal agencies executed 10 simultaneous search warrants across three federal judicial districts in and around the New York area. With support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, 11 targets of the investigation were indicted and arrested on 33 criminal counts, including conspiracy, money laundering, visa fraud, and violation of the Mann Act.

In addition to the 11 indictments, DSS anticipates approximately $3 million will be recovered in seized assets and fines.

DSS special agents at the regional Security Office in Seoul brokered a solid partnership during the investigation — highlighting the effectiveness of DSS’s global reach in neutralizing international criminal conspiracies.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future